Since the first time I saw the Arkells, opening for Matt Mays at the Commodore, I knew I was on to something, and they'd be worth keeping an eye on. I've managed to see them several times since then, in variety of different sized venues, and I've never not been impressed. This time it was at the beautiful Vogue Theatre for a co-headlining tour with Arizona's The Maine.
I ended up missing both them and the other opening bands, Lydia, but I did catch the last couple songs from The Maine and based on that, I am not really heartbroken I missed them.
It was not long after The Maine finished that Hamilton, Ontario's Arkells took the stage, exploding right off the bat with "Whistleblower", and not letting the energy down throughout the entire set. With a good mix of songs off their new album, Michigan Left and their debut, Jackson Square, they had the rabid crowd of the Vogue singing, clapping along, and dancing right up until the end. The band is incredibly tight, and has an almost unparalleled stage presence and energy, and lead singer Max Kerman is so effortlessly charming and charismatic on stage.
One of the highlights of the set was definitely "Oh, The Boss is Coming!", with its crazy intensity and a some of Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money" slipped in. It wasn't the last time they would sneak in a verse or two from other songs throughout the night, either, with a little bit of The Black Keys in "Pulling Punches". They also enlisted help for "Agent Zero" from not only the crowd, but some other friends a well; Tyler and Jacelyn from Said The Whale -- with guitar and tambourine, respectively -- on backup vocals.
The "main" set was brought to an end with "Deadlines", and the band bringing out a couple flashlights and urging the crowd to hold up lighters, cell phones, or any other device that lights up for a sing along of a bit of "This Little Light of Mine", but of course they were back for more. Members of The Maine and Lydia joined them in the encore for a couple more covers, The Beatles' "Help From My Friends" which transitioned perfectly into "That Thing You Do", while Max traded off vocals with The Maine's John O'Callaghan. And the whole night was brought to a perfect ending with another giant sing along, to crowd (and my) favourite, "John Lennon"
Arkells have never failed to impress me with their live show, and this was just more evidence that they were more than deserving of their CBC Radio 3 Bucky Award for "Best Live Act" last year.
There was also a moment that for some reason stood out for me; during the encore, when the stage was packed with with people, Max grabbed the camera of a fan that was filming in the front row, panned across the crowd, then across the stage, and handed it back. It was a small thing that probably went unnoticed by most in the venue (except for the owner of the camera), but it just struck me as a genuinely cool and nice thing to do.
Whistleblower, The Ballad of Hugo Chavez, Where U Going, No Champagne Socialist, Coffee, Michigan Left, Oh, The Boss Is Coming (with She Works Hard for the Money [Donna Summer cover]), Kiss Cam, Pulling Punches (with Lonely Boy [The Black Keys cover]), Agent Zero, On Paper, Deadlines (with This Little Light of Mine).
Book Club, With a Little Help from My Friends [The Beatles cover], That Thing You Do ["The Wonders" cover], John Lennon (with The Way We Get By [Spoon cover])